Have yourself A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS...
Add extra sparkle and fun to your family Christmas with M&B’s practical advice
Christmas is nearing and we can’t wait to introduce our little ones to the fun of the festivities! But what about those decorations your tot wants to put in his mouth, that apparently very scary bloke with a white beard, and the fact that your routine is likely to go out of the adventcalendar window? Fear not, because once you’ve armed yourself with all the clever tricks and life tweaks squeezed into these pages, you’ll come through the craziness unscathed. Oh, and have a very happy family Christmas!
Deal with a room full Of relatives
This Christmas, it’s likely that your youngster will be exposed to more social situations than he’s used to, and meet way more new people than usual. Help him feel at ease and take it all in his stride:
BE PREPARED TO SAY NO
Not all babies cope with being passed from one person to another, and this is simply part of their nature. If this sounds like your tot, it’s okay to put his needs above the adults’.
LOOK FOR SIGNS THAT HE’S HAD ENOUGH Stay close by to your baby to reassure him. If he isn’t happy with others, look for signs such as arching his body or turning away.
BE YOUR CHILD’S ANCHOR
Tell your baby who you’re passing him to, and only leave him if he seems comfortable. Stay close to a toddler as you introduce him to an unfamiliar relatives, and include them in something your tot enjoys. Do this in a positive way: watch for him looking back at you for reassurance when he’s with a relative, for example, and say, ‘Would you like to show Great Aunt Dorothy the shiny new tractor that Santa gave you?’ This provides a link to his life and makes it easier for him to interact with someone he doesn’t know.
DON’T FORGET HIS DAILY NEEDS
Even an outgoing child will have a low tolerance for new situations and new people if he’s feeling tired or hungry, so make sure he’s well fed and rested beforehand.
TAKE A BREAK
Give your child short periods away from the crowd during which time you give him your undivided attention – perhaps going for a little walk in the backyard together to settle him.
Does it really matter if you don’t stay for the expected three hours at Grandma’s house, or if your child doesn’t spend some time sitting on the knees of all five distant cousins? In the grand scheme of things, probably not.
If your tot struggles to deal with all the visitors and noise on Christmas day, take heart in the knowledge that he’ll be better able to cope as he gets older.
Adapt your tot’s routine to chaos!
Look at your Christmas diary and decide which events are important and those that can be avoided. Then consider how these events will impact on your tot’s sleep. “A baby or child who hasn’t had enough sleep won’t be all that interested in food, or playing, so sleep has to be a priority,” explains maternity nurse Lisa Clegg.
PUT YOUR CHILD FIRST
“If your baby is under one, try to keep sleep times as normal as possible,” Lisa says. Adapt the schedule to fit around your child’s routine. If sitting down to eat Christmas lunch at 1pm won’t work because it’s in the middle of your toddler’s two-hour nap, then why not eat at 3pm?
MOVE NAP TIME?
If timing just isn’t flexible in your family, and you want your tot to participate, then you’ll need to move his nap forward. If he has two naps a day, it won’t hurt to miss the first one, as long as you bring the second nap forward. If he only has one nap, then bring that forward a little or push it back – excitement will keep him going a bit longer. “Don’t be tempted to skip the nap,” Lisa says. “You can’t expect him to be happy with no sleep. And if he doesn’t get enough sleep one day, he’ll be tired and want to nap earlier the following day. Adapt your routine for a few days, but get back to your normal routine as soon as you can.”
CATCH UP ON SLEEP
Even the best-laid plans can go awry, and an unexpected visitor, last-minute change of itinerary, or a tot who won’t settle away from home may well result in a late nap. A young baby should respond to his usual sleep cues, so follow his normal pre-sleep routine as soon as you can and find him somewhere quiet to sleep. If he’s fighting sleep, being pushed along in his pram, or taken for a drive in the car, should do the trick, and, if necessary, he can be transferred to the cot once fully asleep. “A toddler may appear full of beans even though it’s past his normal naptime,” Lisa says. “But, if you can, convince him to lie down for a short while on the sofa, or have some quiet time in bed, and he’s likely to fall asleep. If that’s not possible, then distraction will delay the impending meltdown – a walk outside often works. But after that, it may be time to call it a day and head home!”
KEEP LIFE THE SAME
It’s tempting to use the Christmas holidays to make other changes, such as giving up a dummy or starting toilet training: after all, you’ve got time off work and your partner and family are around for support. “Don’t be tempted to make unnecessary changes,” Lisa says. “Keep things as normal as possible, so that the changes you need to make don’t feel so big to your child. It’s especially important when this involves giving up a source of comfort, such as his dummy. Save this for January.”